Friday, 31 May 2013

Zukr Boutique Review

   I love marshmallows, as some of you probably know. I do. My favourites are those little white/pink/peach miniature ones you can get in sweet shops. I like to skewer them onto a fork and hold them over a candle, like my own tiiiny little camp fire. Seriously, you get so many for 50p, it's unreal.
   But over the past year, as some of you might also have noticed, I've become rather fond of 'gourmet' marshmallows - hand crafted marshmallows with unique/wonderful tastes that you just can't get in Tesco or Sainsbury's. I bought several packs of candy cane marshmallows from Lottie's Cupcakes over Christmas.

   But today I'm here to talk to you about another wonderful marshmallow maker, whose shop is just filled with mouth-watering marshmallows and other sweet delights. Zukr Boutique.
   Some of you may have seen them on Etsy - their photography is outstanding, so I wouldn't be surprised. They're UK-based, which is lovely for me, but they ship worldwide, too.

   This is my third purchase from them. My first was a pack of blueberry marhsmallows - and boy, were they blueberry-ey! They were delicious, and most of them ended up in my hot chocolate rather quickly. After such a delicious and surprisingly bouncy packet of marshmallows, I was back for more. This time, I managed to snap some pictures before everything, uh, vanished. My second purchase consisted of Hibiscus flavoured marshmallows.


   They were so sweet - too sweet, perhaps, for hot chocolate - but they were delicious, and I've never had any marshmallow like it before. I don't usually use such expressions, but I swear they were melt-in-the-mouth amazing. And so very, very spongey, I gave one to my boyfriend and just said "squish this" - and he did. Then he ate it the cheeky bugger!
   They are delicious, but no match for the blueberry marshmallows.


   My third purchase was of these brand new dark chocolate-coated raspberry marshmallows. I never used to like dark chocolate, but I have surprisingly learned to love it. It's very strange stuff - sweet but bitter at the same time, but I am quite fond of it. Don't get me wrong, I'll choose milk chocolate over it, but if I'm craving some chocolate and the only thing within five feet of me is dark, I'll happily eat it.
   So these appealed to me greatly. The chocolate layer is very thin, so there's not much chocolate on them, but considering I was buying them 75% for the marshmallow, that was a good thing. The marshmallow was amazing, and the fruitiness was still present despite the chocolate, because it was so thin. They've ended up in a hot chocolate on more than one occasion, and were amazing.
   When I received them, they were packaged safely in a box, as all of Zukr Boutique's products are, but a lot of the marshmallows looked cracked and crushed. Well, I was wrong. I hesitated eating them because I wanted to get a picture for this post, and I didn't want to accidentally eat all the good ones and leave the broken ones. When I got around to photographing them, however, I found that the two I had already eaten, and two that were in the bag were the only cracked ones, and the rest were fine, aside from the expected wear and tear they get rubbing up against eachother.


   I'll certainly be returning to Zukr in the future. They have some more marshmallows I want to try, and, frankly, I want some more of these. They just released a pack of marshmallows that are as much eye candy as actual candy, and I NEED them for that simple fact. I'm sure you can see what I'm talking about:



Thanks for reading. Now stop reading and head over to Zukr and buy me yourself these marshmallows! First class shipping, safe packaging, as standard. Amazing service, too!
Official Website   ♥   Etsy   ♥   Facebook








The Wyvern's Tail

   I just wanted to let you all know that I've been fighting the urge to make more World of Warcraft posts on here for a little while now, because I know that it's falling on deaf ears, even though I enjoy it. So, I decided to make a new blog for games. Follow if you wish - as you can see it's relatively empty at the moment, but I'm working on it at my own pace. I've been more interested in WoW lately than much else, so A Blackbird's Epiphany has somewhat suffered. But rest assured that I do have content in process for this little blog, and others for The Wyvern's Tail. If it gets too much and one of these blogs has to go, it will my new one that gets the boot.

   I also made a new post over on my team's blog about my experience with Tophatter, if anyone is interested!






Thursday, 30 May 2013

10 Minute Solutions Hip Hop Dance Mix Review


Price: £5
No equipment needed.


   This is one of my favourite DVDs, and I consider it to be the easiest DVD in my collection, but one of the most enjoyable. At first, the instructor irritated me to no end. She was far too happy and smiley - but after a week or so, I really warmed up to her, and found her enthusiasm encouraging. However, unlike the other 10 Minute Solutions DVDs, where each section tends to cover just one long routine, this DVD's sections cover two five minute routines instead, which is probably why I deem it easier and more enjoyable. The music changes, as does the routine, and it keeps your attention from wandering.
   I find the music quite good as well, it's much more fun than some of the other DVDs. People have complained on Amazon that it isn't a very hip hop DVD. I'm not really sure what hip hop is, to be honest, but I find the dancing style of this DVD to be amazing fun - but the fact remains that if you buy a DVD like this to learn a dance style then you're doomed from the start. If you want to actually learn a dance style, you should join a class. A single DVD won't do much for you.

   Like other 10 Minute Solutions DVDs, the camera does linger on her abs, and it is encouraging. She's also not dressed provocatively, which is something I was worried about with workout DVDs, but every 10MS DVD is very respectable, with actual dancing trainers rather than celebrities. The setting of the DVD is also nice and comfortable - light and simple, with little but a box of rolled up, colourful yoga mats, a few exercise balls and some lovely twig sprays. No instructor ever uses anything from the background. If they need a yoga mat, they have one at the ready.
   This DVD, like the others, also has the instructor in different outfits for each 10 minute section. This is great, because it makes each segment seem to stand on its own, which makes it easier to build your own routine with them, it doesn't make you feel so guilty if you have to stop earlier than you like due to exhaustion or injury, and it also helps to encourage you to do more, because you won't quit once the segment is over. It also makes the DVD seem less repetative because of the change of colour, and it also helps you remember, based on just the image shown to represent the segment, the full routine involved. I love the change of clothes, too, because it also gives you a great idea of the range of fitness clothes out there. Fitness clothes have some of the best colours and patterns of any clothes, I reckon!




   Not many of this DVD's moves are too complicated. Some of them are quite tiring, but they're easy enough to grasp. I had little trouble with this DVD, but some sequences are noticably harder than the rest. But this instructor has some of the best clothes - I'm particularly fond of her khaki combat trousers from one routine, and the colour of her clothes in the first routine.
   Overall, it's a great DVD, and it's one I choose if I'm quite tired at the end of the week, or I'll change to this DVD if I'm struggling too much with a harder one. The music is great, the dances are really quite cool, and it really does make exercise fun. This was the second 10MS dance DVD I bought, and I just love it.



Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Xbox One

I'm an Xbox fangirl. I am. I've never liked Playstations, I've always hated their controllers. I've always felt that Xboxes looked better, their controllers were so comfortable, the name was nice, and the games that were limited to the Xbox were amazing (Halo and Fable).
   Admittedly the games limited to the Xbox have gone downhill, since Halo was taken over from Bungie by 343 Industries and they made several massive mistakes from the game itself to general customer service, and Fable has been utterly destroyed thanks to Fable 3, Fable Heros and whatever the other shit spewing game came out in the series with it all.
   So to be honest there is little incentive to me for Xboxes any more, as far as limited games go. Still, I would choose and Xbox over a Playstation.
   Or so I thought.

   They announced the Xbox One on the 21st of May, and they described it as a "home entertainment" system", and explained that they wanted a "livingroom experience". It has been confirmed that you cannot even turn the machine on without a Kinect, a device which a lot of people don't actually like or want (we certainly don't want it). Our Xbox is in the bedroom, and there's no room in there to use a Kinect unless we want voice activation rubbish, which we don't.
   It has also been confirmed that you always need an internet connection, so if your 'net dies, you can't play it, and we don't even have WiFi, so we have to tread a new cable through the floor. The reason an internet connection is constantly needed is because your games aren't saved to the console, it's saved to Cloud, which is an online feature. Without the internet, you can't even play an offline single-player-only game like Skyrim.
   It isn't backwards compatible, so you can't play Xbox or Xbox 360 games on it, only Xbox One games, which, to begin with, of course, will be very limited.
   They will also charge you a fee for playing preowned games. At the moment, you can go into any good games store and find a pre-owned section, where you can get games for a lower price because people have played them, gotten tired of them, brought them back into the shop and sold it to them. If the disc is in working order, the shop is able to resell it at a lower rate, and people can buy games they're not 100% certain about without paying full price. If it turns out to be a shit game, no harm done. But Xbox One will charge you a fee - we don't know how much or how little it is yet - but it's completely absurd.

Seeg said that with everything he reads, he's leaning more and more towards
the PS4, which will come out around the same time.
I told him I'm already over there waiting for him.






Saturday, 25 May 2013

Bank Holiday Sale! - 30% off!

   Yes this sale is one of the largest. I don't expect I'll offer 30% off again until Black Friday!
   Use the code BHWK13 to get 30% off of any order in Peaches and Pebbles! This offer expires on Tuesday so get in quick!





Friday, 24 May 2013

Options Hot Chocolate Review

   I love this stuff. Seriously, it's delicious. It's amazing. It's the best hot chocolate in the world.
   I'm very picky about hot chocolate. I've had basic home brand rubbish from several places, and it's always bitter. I realise that it was always bitter in the old days, but if you added even a little bit of sugar it was always too sweet, and it was never chocolatey. It was also never thick enough, so I'd add more powder, which would need more sugar, and no matter what I did, it was awful. I then tried things like Cadbury hot chocolate drums. They were much better, but they were still not thick enough. But I use Cadbury hot chocolate in my baking and it works a treat. It makes some awfully chocolatey cakes.
   But then, a few years ago, Options came out. They were cheap - about 25p a sachet. Each sachet had the powder in it, but it also had powdered milk in it, too. All you needed was hot water. Of course, me being me and thinking I know best, I added sugar to it right away and ruined it. Of course, me being me, I also bought more than one sachet anyway, so I made sure not to add anything to my second attempt.
   Heaven.



   But I've not told you the two best bits. First of all, there are loads of types. There's plain belgian chocolate, there's white chocolate, there's vanilla chocolate, there's chocolate and mint, there's chocolate and orange, there's turkish delight (so rose chocolate) and there's caramel. These are just the ones I can recall off of the top of my head. And, each sachet has between only 38 to 46 calories per mug. 38 to 46, which depends entirely on the flavour. You add no sugar to it, no milk, so it's all very controlled, which makes for much easier calorie counting. Consider the fact that the average hot chocolate has about 225 calories and Options is even more amazing.
   This chocolate is not too thick. Given that the sachets are already in their ideal portions, it doesn't give you the opportunity to misbehave and add in an extra spoonful, which also really helps if you're trying to lose weight. But, if you fancy a thick chocolate, the solution is simple: use a smaller mug. I used to use relatively normal sized mugs, but it was always a bit thin, so I would add a single teaspoon of normal cocoa powder to it. It thickened it, certainly, but it also literally doubled the calories. Since then, I don't use my awesome Misfits mug, instead I use the smaller coffee mugs Seeg's parents brought over from the Netherlands. They hold a good cup of chocolate, but they guarantee it to be thick. Afterall, it's the same calories regardless - so it's just as filling. I'd rather have a thicker cup than a thin, watery one.
   Another great thing about them is that, despite the low calories, they are so very filling. Honestly, Seeg and I will plan to crack open a packet of Fox's chunky cookies that night, and I'll ruin the whole thing for myself by making a cup of chocolate.



   Honestly, if you have them as part of a controlled diet, these hot chocolates are just the best thing in the world. You get a warm drink, thick chocolate, and a full tummy, all with only 40 calories. It is amazing. And there are so many flavours! Of course, if you have self control, you can buy them in drums as well as sachets. 3 teaspoons from a drum will give you the same as a sachet. Of course, if you're anything like me, a teaspoon is quite steep, if you catch my meaning. They also have another line of hot chocolate sachets, called 'Indulgence' - these are bigger, so they offer a thicker chocolate, but there are only a few flavours: toffee, cherry banana, and plain. There  may be others, but I've forgotten them if there are. And they have between 60-70 calories depending on the flavour. So they're thicker than the normal Options, but if it's a special occasion, or you are actually quite a bit more well behaved than some of us (read: me), then they can be just as good. They're still less than half of an average hot chocolate anyway.

   You can find them in just about any supermarket, though the smaller ones might be more likely to only stock the drums to make a bit of money off of them. Tesco charge around £3 or so for a drum, but you can get about 15 mugs from it, working out at about 23p a mug, while they currently charge around 35p per sachet, and are sometimes on offer as 4 for £1. The larger supermarkets stock a much, much larger range than the smaller ones, too, and probably cover all flavours.
   I had intended to host a giveaway for several sachets in several flavours during the winter, but I never got around to it because I totally forgot. So watch this space! I still plan to do it.



Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Tophatter Auction Today!

   That's right, it's here at last. I'm very nervous, but I'm very excited. I've got 44 lots up for auction, some of which are one of a kind pieces, and everything starts at $3 each. $5 worldwide shipping, ree UK shipping, but shipping is refunded on any auction that reaches or exceeds $20, and there is a free gift for auctions that reach or exceed $15, and that free gift stacks. So if one person wins 2 auctions, each over $15, they get 2 different free gifts. Shipping stacks, too, so if someone wins 3 auctions under $20, they only pay shipping once.

   I have no idea what to expect from this event at all, but money has been so very tight lately that all I can do is hope for the best, but expect the worst.
   I would appreciate it if some of you could help spread the word. One or two of you have already, which I greatly appreciate. This is the link to the action. It begins at 11am PST - west coast of the US - or 7pm GMT/BST, London time. If you log into Tophatter, it should show you what time it begins in your own timezone. Please come!






10 Minute Solutions Fat Blasting Dance Mix Review


Price: £6
No equipment needed.


    This is the first 10 Minute Solutions dance DVD I bought, and is also the only one I own with more than one person present in the film. This instructor is the one I deem to be the strictest. She's not strict, but she seems as though she could be if the time called for it. She has two other girls dancing with her behind her, but they don't do much but copy the moves. All they really provide is a good look at what you can achieve if you dedicate yourself, but I do think that that is valuable. Several times in 10MS DVDs, the camera will linger on their abs, and it certainly makes me work harder after seeing it.
   This instructor, like all the others is always smiling, but she seems quite down to earth. I think that's why I believe she'd be a strict personal trainer. Later in the DVD, she states that "instructors get tired too" but I think it's marvellous that she says that. Because of course they do! They might be might more used to it, but if you made a professional runner run for an hour, they'd still be tired at the end of it.

   Like all 10 Minute Solutions DVDs, the DVD is split into five 10 minute sections, and gives you the option to either play all, choose an individual section, or - the option I always choose - to select up to five workouts and play them in any order you wish. This gives you the opportunity to line up your favourite workouts, or arrange your own routine depending on the time you have or level you're at without having to touch the remote. 10MS also tends to flow in the same sort of way on each DVD: a slightly easier routine to start with, which, in the run of the entire DVD, can serve as a warm-up; a harder routine, and then a harder one still; and the last two are either toners, or slower to cool you down.
   Like all other DVDs, you can't expect to be able to pick up the workout immediately. Chances are, you won't do a very good job on the first run of the first segment of your first dance DVD. In fact, you'll do just awful. But these DVDs are not designed to just be played once. What I usually do is choose the third option to customise my workout, and just line up four of the same routine when I've not done it before. This gives me four straight run-throughs, which, when I first started, was what I needed to learn it properly. Then, the next day, I'd do a much better job because I was more familiar with it. Now, however, I only need 2 run-throughs before I get to grips with it.
   It irritates me to read Amazon reviews of these DVDs and see people complain that they can't pick the moves up, but some people just expect too much of either the DVDs or themselves and give up too quickly. What also has to keep in mind is that each segment is only 10 minutes long, so if they focused too long on how to do the moves rather an actually doing them, then when you replayed the DVD, looking for a familiar workout, it wouldn't be very demanding. After a few run-throughs you will pick it up.




   This instructor keeps you going, the moves are amazing, and the music is pretty good. I'm more interested in epic soundtracks like Skyrim or The Lord of The Rings, and in rock music, but the music in this DVD is excellent to dance to, and serves as a relatively neutral genre. It does the job to get you moving. There is one move that turns up twice in the DVD in seperate sections, and it took me a good week to actually get the hang of it. The only advice I can offer is to take it all one step at a time. If a move is too complex, then do half of it. If you get ahold of the DVD I'm sure you'll know which move I'm talking about, the "hop, step, tap". It's very difficult but I focused on the footwork, and got there eventually. Once I was confident with the footwork (like I said, after a week), I added in the arms. I have not encountered such a difficult move since. It may have just been me that found it difficult, though.
   Out of my collections of dance workout DVDs, I actually consider this to be the second hardest I own, the first being 'Urban Workout', but that one is not part of 10 Minute Solutions, and is a DVD I'll cover at a later date. It's the disc I put on if I want something familiar, but something hard at the same time.



Monday, 20 May 2013

Creative Writing Tips: Every Day Lives

Applies to Fantasy, for the most part.


   This is something that never really occurred to me until planning my newest book. I created my world for the purpose of a story, I invented the land, the monarchs, the wealth, the technology, the resources - I created all of it myself, for the purpose of one to three books, depending on the scale of the story.
   But the story would not have happened if not for the plot. If nothing dangerous or out of the ordinary happened, I'd not have much of a story - not an interesting one anyway, so, naturally, I needed to also invent a villain, their motive, their plan and so on, and create a counter to it to prevent them from succeeding, as is usually the way. But, what I often forget is that the world would have continued on whether the villain had come along or not, and not all stories start in the middle of the plot. Some key characters, especially those in a high social position, most likely have plans and worries that would take priority if they didn't have to get involved with the villain.
   This isn't key for every fantasy story - if your main character is a farm boy, then it's unlikely that they'd have much planned in the long run - but if your main character is a princess or a councilman, then they'd probably have quite a social agenda, and that needs to be kept in mind, particularly at the beginning before anything seems amiss to them.
   This can be difficult, especially if your character is in a position you are unfamiliar with, be it existant or not. What you need to do at the very least is use your common sense. If your character is a princess, then who would be around them most of the time? Who would be needed? Guards? Tutors? Hand maidens? What sort of things would they be expected to attend or see to? Do they have an education they have to get in a specific craft? If it's a princess it may be more along the lines of lessons in politics and social etiquette, and if its a military commander, they may have to attend strategy meetings and organise training and such. Your characters need to have a social plan to be disrupted, particularly for characters such as these, or it'll seem as though their lives are empty and they were subconsciously expecting the plotline. Afterall, as I said, if the villain and his plan had not occurred, their lives would have continued as normal. You need to create the idea that they will do so until they get involved with the plot, even if just about none of the plans they made ever happen.

   These are the kinds of things you should think about:
  • Who do they surround themselves with? Colleagues? Subordinates? Servants? Cows? These depend on your character's profession and position, of course. If none of these fit then clear your head, picture your character and their job, and ask yourself who you see around them, or what words tie into their profession.
  • What do they do? Do they have to make reports to their higher-ups? Do they have to attend weekly markets or meetings? Do they have to maintain something like a stable, a farm, a shop and so on?
  • What hobbies do they have? Do they even have time for them? These pass-times don't necessarily have to be anything they're good at, but something they enjoy. I'm not good at singing at all, but I still enjoy to belt the words to a song I like (as long as I think no one can hear me). They could be related to their profession or position, or they could be the complete opposite. A soldier might enjoy to paint; a princess might enjoy fighting. Hobbies could also be secret, either due to shame, embarrassment, danger or a surprise, among many other things.
  • What responsibilities do they have? Do they govern a city? Are they highly regarded by members of their village or even country? Are they perhaps the opposite, and completely hated and outcasts? Do they have their own personal plans, or do their plans revolve around other people, or are relied on by other people? Such as an event can't take place without them.

   Brainstorm. What I find helps is a pen and paper so you can write ALLLL over it and see the whole sheet at once, which isn't as easy on a computer or laptop. It also means you won't lose everything you've mapped out. What I also find helps is to write down every word that seems relevant to what you're trying to plan, even if it doesn't seem important. If I were mapping out a military position, I would have words like "war" and "army" popping up, even though they should go without saying. But, by writing down these obvious words, it can help to remove them from the forefront of your mind and make room for new suggestions, and it can also help you get into the swing of writing down any word that comes to mind. Even if you know you have no intention of using whatever a word might imply, it's best to write it down anyway, and get it out of your head. For example, if I was mapping out wizards but I had no intention of using necromancy at all, I'd still write it down just to remove it from my head, otherwise the word would keep popping up because I would be trying to ignore it.

   Once you've given your characters a social or working agenda, their lives will seem fuller, and they will seem of more value, both to you, and your readers, even if your readers don't know quite as much as you. Most of these events may not come to pass, though some might be fitted into the story and used as an advantage to either the protagonist, or the antagonist, perhaps as a way to stage something or to lure someone out. But these plans are made to be broken, and can help make it easier to start your story off, if your story starts on a normal day that begins like any other. You'll know what your character is looking forward to and what they have on their mind, and what they have to get done that day. And that can make a whole world of difference. Some of the questions you ask yourself may even bring up answers that could completely change the route of the entire story, or grant you a small idea that can be built on to create a plot or suggestion for an entirely new book, if you can take it far enough in the right direction. I have found this twice while planning a book - I worked on it for a day, and already had two alternative books coming out from it just from a note or two.





Bookmark Dump


21 cute animals in boots. What more do you need?

6 Products that are sure to increase sales. This is quite a useful page. It's not talking about specific products, just product types that can draw people's attention. My favourite was the subject of ME! Bath, who created the world's most expensive bath, starting at $50,000. They never sold a single one, but it wasn't designed to sell, it was designed to lure, and they got loads of free press. Their real products, however, were $10 bath bombs.


This is a hummingbird hawk moth, the closest thing to a hummingbird in Europe



Are you running your Facebook contests correctly? Read this helpful post and find out if your Facebook giveaways could get your account deleted.

Enter this giveaway for a pair of sunglasses - and for every 5 entries, another winner will be added!

Sign the petition to encourage game companies to expand their range of female game apparel.


I think my cousin had this in college once.




Saturday, 18 May 2013

Reminder Announcement - Tophatter!

 My Tophatter auction starts 11am PST / 7pm GMT on Wednesday the 22nd. Don't miss it! Every item has a $3 start bid, with free shipping in the UK, and $5 shipping worldwide. Shipping is refunded on all auctions of $20 or more, and a free gift thrown in on any auction of $15 or more.




If you download the iPhone app, you can get $5 free Tophatter site credit for use in any auction! Just add the code '17a97' to the settings page and enjoy a free bid or two! 





Friday, 17 May 2013

A 30 Second Favour - sign my petition


The Explanation.

   Now, I know that the majority of my readers aren't interested in gaming. That's probably why I lost a few followers when I posted my World of Warcraft and Skyrim posts while I was on holiday. But the fact is, gaming is important to me. It's something both me and my boyfriend love to do, be it seperate or together. But not only that, if I'm having a hard day, then when my dad gets home to look after my mum and I "get off work" so to speak, I can immerse myself in a game and just get lost in it until I go to bed. It's an amzing destresser for me, but it also aids me with my writing.
   I use games as research to see what's popular in fantasy at the moment, which helps with certain aspects of my writing. It also gives me ideas, and in a game as versatile as Skyrim, I'm even able to create the main character of whatever book I'm working on and play them, which allows me to get better acquainted with them, if not provide even more ideas.

   But I also love merchandise. I do. I love replicas of weapons, I love lithographic prints, and I love t-shirts and hoodies. But the problem is that a lot of gaming companies only aim their products at guys.
   I know, I know, when you think of gaming you think of guys. If you go into a gaming shop, chances are it will be full of guys with no more than 1-2 women. But the fact is that more and more females are playing games these days, be it because they're stay-at-home mothers with time on their hands every now and then, or because their partner has gotten them interested in gaming (that's how it all started for me), or because they grew up with a brother or they just simply enjoy it.
   But if you go onto any of the official merchandise websites such as the Bioware store, or the Bethesda store, which sell products unavailable anywhere else, there is an absolute abundance of male apparel, but very little for females. For every 1 female t-shirt, there are about 4-5 male ones, each with designs unavailable to the ladies.

   An example is that I love Mass Effect. I do. And my favourite characters are Mordin, Thane and Legion (it seems all of them are from ME2 only, though). But when I went into the Bioware store, I did find t-shirt designs with all three of them, but none of them were available for women. The best they had for women was Garrus. That's fine, I like Garrus, too, so I did actually buy that t-shirt, but I'm unable to buy any of my true favourites. I don't like to wear loose t-shirts, you see, and male t-shirts are always loose on me. I also have no skill with a sewing machine, so I can't fix up any male ones to better fit, either.

   I'm sure there is a reason that they don't create many female products, but I believe that that is because they don't realise how many females play their games. And so it means that the users of websites like Redbubble or Cafe Press make their own designs and have them enabled on female t-shirts. This is usually copyright infringement, and when the companies find out, they contact the websites and have them pulled, but that means that there is very little for women to do about it. I've actually made my own gaming t-shirts with fabric paint because I have no other options. I didn't, and will not sell them, of course, they're for me and me alone, but it means that more complex designs like Mordin's head are out of my reach because I'm just not clever enough to manage it by hand.


The Favour.

   So, to my point: I have put together a petition on Change.org, and I ask you, today, to sign it. It takes 30 seconds, that's all, and I've sent it out to numerous gaming magazines and such just now. I need every signature I can get if this is going to make a change. It might not seem an important thing to make a petition about, but it is something that bothers me, and it's about making the point that female gamers exist, and there are a lot of us. Plus it's just a teensy bit sexist.





Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Getting in Shape

   I've been trying to lose weight for years, now. When I was a teenager I used to draw my bedroom curtains, turn up my music and just dance it off. At the time it felt like I was at it for ages, but thinking back, I don't think I did more than an hour and a half every weekend. I also never saw the results quickly enough, so I gave up quite quickly. This would go on for months. I'd exercise for a week or so, give up for a few months before trying again. The problem was that I never had the dedication.
   Funnily enough, it was when I got involved with Seeg 3 years ago that I found the confidence and dedication I needed. He loves me how I am, he always has, and I think it was because he helped me to love myself a bit more that I was able to better grasp what I wanted. In the old days, I just wanted to be skinny - you know, the typical teenage stick. I know much better now. I want to lose weight, yes, but I'd rather be strong than weak. I'd rather have a toned physique than a thin one.
   Seeg bought me a Wii a few years ago, just after I bought my first exercise DVD. Before then, all I had was an aerobics step I used to use while I was watching TV. It didn't do much for me, it was very repetative, and it wasn't fun at all. But when Seeg gave me the Wii and Wii Fit Plus for my 20th birthday, that's when everything got started. It introduced me to BMI, the balance board weighed me much, much more accurately than my bathroom scales, and it recorded everything for me. It also gave me lots of new exercises, and even step aerobics which had more rhythm than when I just watched TV with it. I also think that, because it cost so much money, I felt I had to use it. I'm not sure how long I used it for before I moved on, but because of that Wii, which Seeg bought me purely for fitness, I've not given up. I think it was about 6 months, but I still use it today to weigh myself.

   I started using 10 Minute Solutions DVDs. The first one I bought, before Seeg got me the Wii, was from HMV. It was £3, which I thought was reasonable enough to take a chance on, and it was called "blast off belly fat". It wasn't very amazing, though, because it was just muscle work. It was better than the Wii, purely because I had grown quite used to all of the Wii's exercise options, but it wasn't quite what I wanted. I then had a look on Amazon and found that, actually, there was an enormous range of 10 Minute Solutions DVDs, and I eventually ended up buying all of the dance DVDs, which is my absolute favourite work out style.
   I'll review 10 Minute Solutions and explain the concept of the DVDs at a later date.

   Eating has always been a problem for me, too. I love chocolate. I honestly do. And I struggle to tell the difference between hunger and boredom. Whenever I think of diets I always think salad, salad, salad - and not nice salads either, just leaves, really. I've grown to realise that diets aren't all always like that, but at the same time, I can't afford to change the way I eat by buying loads of raw ingredients like that. Diets like Slim Fast and Weight Watchers are all equally too expensive, which I can't help feeling is extremely cheeky to charge so much for things like that. You lose weight, but more of it comes off of your bank account than anything else.
   But what I have found is that I can make little changes - less chocolate and fatty things, smaller meals, eating slower and so on, and it makes a difference. I'll touch on the matter of eating slower at another point, too. I thought it was rubbish but I swear it works. You don't have to buy all these ridiculously expensive meals to eat healthily, and there are plenty of simple "super" foods you can incorporate into your normal diet and lose weight and get healthier just from that. The best thing I've found is green tea.

   I've also found that adding weights into your workout can also increase your work rate, because it forces you to use more muscles, and use them harder. This can mean adding a few sets of weights during your break, or it can mean adding hand and ankle weights to your ordinary workout. I have a pair of weighted gloves that I wear while dancing, and I can't imagine doing it without them anymore. Sure, it makes changing DVD discs a challenge because my hands are heavier than I expect them to be, but while I'm actually working, I'm not seeing any hinderance any more. Not to mention the fact that I feel a little more serious about my workout and fitness while I'm wearing them.


   I've got a lot of experience with certain aspects of fitness now, after a few years of it all, and I've decided it would be a good idea to share them. I'll be reviewing fitness products that I own, sharing tips and recipes, and posting anything I can think of that might help people looking to lose weight and get it shape. Hopefully it’ll be of use to someone, so watch this space, and the Fitness tab on my sidebar, and you’ll get everything I have to throw at you.
   I'm also going to try doodling some diagrams for these posts, so that should be, um, interesting.



Monday, 13 May 2013

Butterfly Friendship Necklaces Are Back!

They're back at last. I loved these things, but I was never happy with their finish, so I stopped selling them. They were very popular in the short amount of space that they were available, and now they're finally back, with a new finish! They're tougher, more durable, shinier and just generally more awesome. Check them out!
 





Currently

Listening: To the sounds of Return of Warrior, and the Fall of the Lich King soundtrack.

Thinking: About my writing. I've done very well lately to keep up with my writing. I get quite upset with it sometimes when I think about how long it will take for me to convince anyone I'm worth the risk, and that sort of paralyses me, but lately I just said "fuck it" and I'm getting on with it. I've managed to knock out a chapter within a week, which is excellent, and I'm hoping the productivity will continue. I'm really enjoying the book.

Waiting: For our anniversary. Seeg and I will be together for 3 years on the 17th of this month, and I've been working out what to get him as a gift. He's a particular nuisance because, while I freely mention the things I want to try to give him hints and a helping hand, he says nothing, so I'm forced to guess. Occasionally he'll mention that he wants a new champion for League, or a new game, but this is so infrequent, and the former is so mundane, that they won't make suitable gifts. Fortunately, I've said "fuck it" again and am going out on a whim with an idea for a gift. I have no other options, because he wants very little. I assume it's because he's male.

Watching: The final season of Avatar. It's such a great program. It's like anime, in the sense that it's animated, and has a story that flows from one episode to another, but it's not because, well, it's American. Which means I can watch it, and ignore it at the same time. I can craft while it's on because I can follow the story by sound, but with Bleach or Naruto, I have no idea what's being said unless I watch the screen.
I've also been watching a lot of Dad's Army, I think I've watched the entire 9 season boxset back to back twice, and I'm now on my third run. And do you know I've learnt something from it! They don't like it up 'em. They really don't like the cold steel.

Reading: The last book of the Elenium. I admit that I've slacked with reading it lately because I've been doing more writing, but the trilogy is so good that I'm not keen to finish it anyway. But I have about 10 more books to read afterwards, so I should probably get cracking.

Playing: Minecraft and World of Warcraft, when I'm not working on anniversary gifts or writing.

Obsessing: Money. We've not got much, and our anniversary has maxed out what little we did have. Fortunately, I put my Wacom up on ebay and got a bid within the first two hours, so that will sell on Sunday, and I've got my Tophatter auction on Wednesday the 22nd - I desperately hope that that goes well, too. If it does then we might be all right. I'd hugely appreciate it if some of you could help spread the word, though.

Wondering: I won a competition with a fitness magazine this morning that gave me 2 boxes of Real Nutrition Co shakes, and some Real Nutrition Co snack bars. They're supposed to help your body recover after exercise, and since I won them, I figure I'll use them. They're worth a lot of money, afterall. If the first week goes well with them and they don't somehow make me ill, I'll make some reviews of them after set periods of time. I've always wondered about things like this.

Excited: For our anniversary, my Tophatter auction, our stay-at-home holiday, and about the return of my butterfly friendship necklaces. I was speaking to Lisa DiSciascio of Starlight Woods, and she helped me with resin, so now I have a much better finish on my necklaces. I'm really pleased because they were very popular! The only problem is that I've run out of blue ink - specifically blue - so I can't print any blue morphos. If anyone in the UK fancies helping me out, I can send the file and you can print a sheet for me. Yes? No? Worth a shot. Ink is bloody expensive and I can't afford any more.

I hope everyone is doing well. I got a wonderful postcard from Hawaii in the post this morning which brightened my day. I was preparing to say "I NEVER GOT A POST CARD" as a joke, but...well, I did. Post cards aren't sent out nearly as much as they should be, so I'm honoured to be thought of even while my friend was in a place so much more spectacular than Britain.



Saturday, 11 May 2013

June Sponsor Ad Giveaway

   It took me some time, but I finally did it. I love Why Girls Are Weird - it's one of my favourite blogs, along with Habitual Homebody (aka The Curious Pug), VividPlease, and a craft blog that I can't remember the name of. But Krysten had presented a wonderful idea!
   Not many people are shelling out for ad spaces anymore, and I'm not talking about my own blog, but Krysten decided that, instead of having people pay for ad spaces, and having a lot of repeat sponsors and such, she would give everyone the chance to advertise on her blog with a monthly giveaway. I thought it was genius. I contacted her and asked if it was okay that I steal the idea, and with her consent, I've finally gotten around to doing it.


   I've never had too many sponsors on my blog. For the most part, it's just friends or blogs I adore. And so, my sponsor section is often ignored, eventhough I changed it to allow all sponsors the right to submit a guest post and/or giveaway. But this idea will help. I think the biggest issue I have is not knowing where to advertise that I'm looking for sponsors, but a giveaway will draw in all kinds of people.
   What I've decided to do, for now at least, is to leave it at only two entries per person. This gives everyone very equal opportunitues. The first is to simply follow my blog through Bloglovin', which is my absolute favourite platform. The second is to tweet the giveaway, giving more people the chance to get a free ad space, to give my blog more exposure, and so that I might also see new shops and blogs via winners.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


   I had planned to do this a few months ago but I kept forgetting, so here it is now. It's all open internationally, of course, and the ad spaces can be used towards any page of yours you wish to expose, be it a blog, shop or website. Winners will be notified by email, along with how long they have to submit their ad, how to submit their ad, and when I need guest post and giveaway confirmations by. Guest posts and giveaways are not obligatory, but at least one of the two is preferred.
   Please make sure that your rafflecopter account has a valid email address. The ad size given to winners will depend on the order they are drawn, and cannot be changed. I also require adverts of the correct size. Ads that have been stretched will not be accepted. Also, the prettier the ads, the better.


The giveaway ends on May 18th, winners will be drawn and notified between the 19th and 21st
Ads will go live on June 1st. If you win or lose this month, you can still enter next month!



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Friday, 10 May 2013

Peaches and Pebbles Tophatter Auction


   Tophatter got in touch with me recently, asking if I'd be interested in doing a Partner Auction with them. I was quite hesitant about it, given that an auction can't guarantee me any good money at all, but after a few emails back and forth with the Partner Auction manager, and taking into consideration the fact that Seeg and I have been quite skint these past few weeks, I decided to chance it, be it right, be it wrong.
   Tophatter will be spreading the word of my auction by newsletter, and my auction is currently visible on the "future auctions" page along with the majority of my lots - but the bulk of advertisement is down to me, hence the banners at the top of my blog. I'm doing what I can to spread the word without thoroughly spamming anyone.




   So I want to take this opportunity to invite you all to the auction. It starts at 11am PST (Pacific, GMT+8) on Wednesday the 22nd of May. You can attend via PC, laptop, or iPhone (see below for free $5 site credit with the iPhone app).
   It's made up of a mixture of my most popular and my newest items, including a few One of a Kind items that I've not sold yet. Every item has a $3 start bid, which I do deem to be dangerous, but it's a risk I have to take. The money will all go towards our computer fund, which will buy us a computer and programs to make my writing easier and more comfortable. We had already had some money put by for it, but due to such a quiet few months, it's ended up coming back out to cover necessities and we're back to square one.
   There is free shipping in the UK, and $5 shipping for the rest of the world, but any lots that sell for $20 or more (which is at least $5 less than my cheapest lot when it's on Etsy and Storenvy) will have shipping refunded. There are also free gifts to accompany any lots that sell for $15 or more, and they stack. If a single person wins, for example, three auctions, and all three go for more than $15, then they will receive three different free gifts.




Info for iPhone users:
   As an added bonus, I have an exclusive code that allows new members to Tophatter $5 credit to use towards any auction, including my own. All you have to do is download the free Tophatter app onto your iPhone, which allows you to access Tophatter, bid, and contribute to auctions all while on the go through your phone, and then put the code 17a97 in on the settings page. Your account will be credited with $5 to use anywhere on the site.

   I'd really appreciate it if any of you could reblog this information, spread the button around and so on. It's a great opportunity to grab a bargain, and help me out in the process. This is a one-time-only auction, so it won't be happening again - unless this one is a surprising success. Get a headstart on birthday, anniversary or even Christmas gifts this May!


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